ICYMI: Human Rights Campaign, Parents of Transgender Children Speak Out Against Anti-LGBTQ+ Bills Putting the Well-Being of Youth At Risk

by Delphine Luneau

A recording of the roundtable can be found here. Interested in speaking to parents of transgender youth? Please reach out to press@hrc.org

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — hosted a virtual roundtable with parents of transgender youth to discuss the dangers of anti-LGBTQ+ bills moving through the Arizona legislature.

Arizona legislators advanced both Senate Bill 1138 and House Bill 2161 last week, which mandate unprecedented government intrusion in the lives of Arizonans. Senate Bill 1138 bans best practice medical care for transgender youth, and House Bill 2161 requires health care entities and school staff to forcibly out LGBTQ+ children to their parents. On Monday, Senate Bill 1165, an anti-trans sports ban, was assigned to the House Judiciary committee and is awaiting a hearing date.

Today, more than 2,500 parents from all 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C. issued an open letter organized by HRC, condemning the avalanche of anti-transgender legislation moving in legislatures across the country. Transgender youth have been under attack in state legislatures for several years. A record number of anti-transgender bills were filed in 2021, largely focused on denying transgender youth the ability to receive gender-affirming care and participate in school athletics programs. Even more anti-transgender legislation is on track to be filed in 2022.

A recording of the roundtable, and full remarks of all speakers, can be found here. Remarks — in opposition to the discriminatory legislation — came from:

Bridget Sharpe, Human Rights Campaign, Arizona State Director:

“The parents joining us today have had to sit through hearings and listen as our elected officials attacked their children. They’ve shown no shame as they’ve tried to dehumanize and invalidate their identities. Caught in the crosshairs of anti-LGBTQ+ elected officials’ divisive political strategy are vulnerable kids who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence. I want to be clear: politicians are culpable for the harm they cause to LGBTQ+ people’s wellbeing simply by being subjected to continual legislative attacks on their dignity and humanity.”

Kristin Downing, parent of non-binary child based in Tucson:

“The reason I've gotten so involved on the medical bill in particular this year is because about a year ago, I wasn't sure that my teenager would be around to share his light with the world. Truly it's because of our supportive community – we have so many friends and family that surround us, are loving and kind, and they see my child as more than his pronouns and gender identity. But also especially our doctors and therapists who again see my child as a person… We are constantly thinking about my child's best interests, well being, and mental health, and putting the government in the middle of that – I don't even have words. It's an awful idea. It's my right as my child's parents to make the medical decisions for and with my child.”

Derrick Fielder, parent of trans child based in Phoenix:

“I spent most of my adult life in the United States Army or Army National Guard in the service of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I'm currently a captain in the Arizona Army National Guard. I’ve fought in war and was deployed four times because I believe so devoutly in this principle. And so it's pretty disheartening to see these bills come up to our legislature and actually have a chance of passing. I'm here today because my son is transgender. He came out to us as transgender a year ago when I was on deployment overseas

and it's been a difficult process for us… And we had a lot of shame. My wife and I both believed ourselves to be progressive, open minded people. We rely on reason and science to come to decisions about things and to form our views but there we were, wishing desperately that our child was not transgender. So I took that opportunity, that sense of shame to start doing some research and start really figuring out – trying to understand – what this meant for my son, for us. And just in general, what does it mean to be transgender?… The biggest thing that I learned is that gender affirming care saves lives, and I also confirmed what I knew, intuitively, that what matters is my child's spirit and character as a human being.”

Delia Hogan, parent of trans child based in Phoenix:

“This isn't a phase. It's not a trend. This is not a 3 minute TikTok for her. This is her life. This is her reality and this is her identity. And it is hard living in a body that she doesn't identify with as a kind of hell that my child deals with every day, and I see how it hurts her. I see the yearning in her eyes to look like the other girls. I hear her crying in the shower when she's forced to see her body. And I've listened to her and held her as she tells me how she would rather die than to live in the body that she has, and if that’s her only choice, she would rather opt out. And in those moments, I know that I would do anything in my power to make it better for her. Anything that would give her a future that she can look forward to. So this last year when she started puberty, I witnessed the relief and tears of joy on her face when we told her that she could get the puberty blockers that would give her hope for her future. I believe that they will quite literally save her life.”

Lizette Trujillo, parent of trans child based in Tucson:

“There's nothing wrong with our transgender loved ones or our children. I hope and pray for a future where trans loved ones are accepted and not rejected in their homes. And what is really wrong is the ways in which society and policymakers have discriminated against – and how we as a whole society – have discriminated against transgender people. My son has said to me on more than one occasion, ‘I go to school and I'm safe and I'm happy and I'm supported by my friends. I have a wonderful community. And when I go to the Capitol, I hear adults speak about me in ways that are discriminatory and scary and not true to my experience. Not true to my lived everyday experience.’”

Jose Trujillo, parent of trans child based in Tucson:

“What I'm asking is, believe us. Believe that we're doing the right thing because we love our children… We're doing research. We're talking to professionals who are helping us along the way. And trust that parents know what's best. We don't need government involved in what's best for our children.”

Senate Bill 1138 explicitly targets transgender youth by banning some gender-affirming medical procedures for anyone under 18 years old. Medical and mental health professionals oppose this legislation, which interferes with their ability to provide best-practice, often life-saving care.

House Bill 2161 requires schools and healthcare entities to give parents access to all of their child’s written and electronic records, which could include a student’s urgent trip to the guidance counselor to discuss their mental health. Parents could sue schools for withholding information concerning any facet of a minor’s health from their parents, including information regarding a student’s gender identity and/or transitioning.

House Bill 1165 is a harmful, discriminatory bill that would ban transgender youth from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. These kids are just kids, and they should be allowed to play.

Politicians are culpable for the harm they cause to LGBTQ+ people’s wellbeing simply by being subjected to continual legislative attacks on their dignity and humanity. There are real consequences to the discrimination perpetrated upon LGBTQ+ people, and particuarly transgender youth. According to a new analysis, 55% of LGBTQ+ Arizonans reported they’ve suffered from depression in the past two weeks.

Last night, in his State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden condemned the "onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans," pledging support for trans youth being targeted by lawmakers in statehouses across the country. "To our younger transgender Americans, I will always have your back as President, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential."

Anti-Transgender Attacks As A Political Talking Point

Legislators in a record 34 states introduced 147 anti-transgender bills in 2021, focusing on discriminatory anti-equality measures to drive a wedge between their constituents and score short-term political points. In 2021, legislators in twelve states enacted anti-LGBTQ+ bills despite failing to provide examples of what exactly they were legislating against.

Merely introducing anti-transgender bills and peddling anti-transgender rhetoric has already had a damaging impact, leading to LGBTQ+ youth resources being surreptitiously removed from a government website, 11-year old kids literally having trouble sleeping, and a school district banning graphic novels with a transgender character after a parent's complaint. 2021 and 2020 were the deadliest and second deadliest years on record for trans & gender non-conforming people respectively, with the Human Rights Campaign tracking at least 50 violent deaths in 2021 alone. A new Trevor Project survey shows that a startling 85% of transgender or gender non-binary youth say their mental health has been negatively affected by these legislative attacks.

Anti-transgender content on social media is also a radicalizing issue all by itself. This is in large part because transgender young people are among the most marginalized, voiceless, and defenseless communities in America, and because right-wing arguments play on long-standing mysoginistic, racist, and sexist tropes about gender roles.

Anti-Equality Forces Are Spending Big

These bills are the result of a concerted effort by right-wing organizations that have been battling against LGBTQ+ progress for years. Across recent elections, one of the key anti-equality groups working to turn back decades of LGBTQ+ progress has been the American Principles Project (APP). APP and its chief underwriter Sam Fieler have invested millions of dollars in support of anti-LGBTQ+ candidates. In 2020, APP spent more than $2.6 million in ad spending in support of anti-equality candidates. In Virginia in 2021, APP spent at least $300,000 on digital advertising in support of Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign.

Restoration PAC, run and funded by major anti-LGBTQ+ bankroller Dick Uihlein, spent at least $1.9 million in advertising across Virginia in support of Youngkin and donated $942,000 to the political arm of anti-abortion group Women Speak Out Virginia. Anti-equality group Free to Learn Action launched a $1 million ad campaign spreading widely debunked anti-transgender misinformation in support of Youngkin’s campaign.

Businesses, Advocacy Groups, and Athletes Oppose Anti-Trans Legislation

More than 150 major U.S. corporations have stood up and spoken out to oppose anti-transgender legislation being proposed in states across the country. Companies like Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, AT&T, AirBnB, Dell, Dow, Google, IBM, Lyft, Marriott, Microsoft, Nike, and Paypal have objected to these bills. Four of the largest U.S. food companies also condemned “dangerous, discriminatory legislation that serves as an attack on LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly transgender and nonbinary people,” and the Walton Family Foundation issued a statement expressing “alarm” at the trend of anti-transgender legislation that recently became law in Arkansas.

Many are rightly protective of the legacy of women’s sports in this country, and a robust Title IX is central to that legacy. Importantly, advocates for women and girls in sports – such as the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Sports Foundation, Women Leaders in College Sports, and others – support trans-inclusive policies and oppose efforts to exclude transgender students from participating in sports. So do prominent female athletes including Billie Jean King, Megan Rapinoe, and Cheryl Reeve. That’s because while there are real issues facing women’s sports, including a lack of resources devoted to supporting them, transgender participation in athletics is not one of them.

The nation’s leading child health and welfare groups representing more than 7 million youth-serving professionals and more than 1,000 child welfare organizations released an open letter calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose dozens of bills that target LGBTQ+ people, and transgender children in particular.

Nearly 550 college athletes have stood up to anti-transgender legislation by demanding the NCAA pull championships from states that have enactedanti-trans sports laws.

Trans Equality Is Popular Across All Demographics

The reality is that however sensational and polarizing this issue may seem, public opinion polling across the country show strong support for trans-inclusive and pro-equality policies:

Recent PRRI data shows a large majority of Americans (82%) favor laws that protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, and majorities of Republicans (67%), independents (85%), and Democrats (92%) favor nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.

A PBS/NPR/Marist poll states that 67% of Americans, including 66% of Republicans, oppose the anti-transgender sports ban legislation proliferating across 30 states.

In a 10-swing-state poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group in 2020 showed:

  • At least 60% of Trump voters across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should be able to live freely and openly.

  • At least 87% of respondents across each of the 10 swing states say transgender people should have equal access to medical care, with many states breaking 90% support

  • When respondents were asked about how they prioritized the importance of banning transgender people from participating in sports as compared to other policy issues, the issue came in dead last, with between 1% and 3% prioritizing the issue.

Another poll conducted by the Human Rights Campaign & Hart Research Group revealed that, with respect to transgender youth participation in sports, the public’s strong inclination is on the side of fairness and equality for transgender student athletes. 73% of voters agree that “sports are important in young people’s lives. Young transgender people should be allowed opportunities to participate in a way that is safe and comfortable for them.”

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