SOTU: Human Rights Campaign Condemns Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Demonizing Transgender People

by HRC Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tonight, shortly after President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union Address, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered the Republican response and used her platform to demonize transgender and non-binary people, an already marginalized population under attack in Huckabee Sanders’ home state and across the country.

In a statement released tonight, Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson condemned Huckabee Sanders:

“Tonight, Sarah Huckabee Sanders picked up right where she left off as Donald Trump’s Press Secretary. Just as she’s been doing in her brief tenure as Governor of Arkansas, she used her moment in the spotlight to spread dangerous misinformation, lie to the American people, and remind all of us what will happen if Republicans take back the White House next year. It’s just plain despicable that she used her platform tonight to sow division by demonizing the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgender and non-binary people..

“Transgender kids just want to grow up feeling loved, respected, and valued for who they are. But politicians like Gov. Huckabee Sanders are making that nearly impossible with their neverending attacks on these kids. The American people deserve better than the dangerous vision the Governor outlined tonight. We have real needs, like passing national LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections in the Equality Act, protecting voting rights, taking on police brutality, and bringing back abortion access nationwide. We are going to continue doing everything we can to fight politicians like Gov. Huckabee Sanders and the destructive policies they want to impose on the rest of us.”

Kelley Robinson, HRC President

The Arkansas Senate is expected to soon send Huckabee Sanders a bill to prohibit transgender students from using public school restrooms consistent with their gender identity. A record number of 315 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed in statehouses across the United States last year, largely focused on denying transgender youth the ability to receive gender-affirming care and participate in school athletics programs, with even more expected to be filed in 2023. Arkansas and Alabama have passed such laws and both are currently stayed pending the conclusion of litigation challenging them; an executive action in Texas is similarly stayed. Utah was the first state in 2023 to pass a law preventing gender-affirming care, with Mississippi poised to become the second this year and fourth law overall. These bills are extreme, rooted in misinformation and lies about gender-affirming care, and are contrary to medical best practices.

Get the facts about gender-affirming care:

  • Every credible medical organization – representing over 1.3 million doctors in the United States – calls for age-appropriate gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary people.
    • “Transition-related” or “gender-affirming” care looks different for every transgender and non-binary person.

    • Parents, their kids, and doctors make decisions together, and no medical interventions with permanent consequences happen until a transgender person is old enough to give truly informed consent.

  • Gender transition is a personal process that can include changing clothes, names, and hairstyles to fit a person’s gender identity.
    • Some people take medication, and some do not; some adults have surgeries, and others do not. How someone transitions is their choice, to be made with their family and their doctor.

    • Therapists, parents and health care providers work together to determine which changes to make at a given time that are in the best interest of the child.

    • In most young children, this care can be entirely social. This means:
      • New name

      • New hairstyle

      • New clothing

      • None of this care is irreversible.

  • Being transgender is not new.
    • Some say it can feel like being transgender is very new – but that’s because the media has been covering it more in recent months and years.

    • But transgender people have always existed and will continue to exist regardless of the bills we pass.

    • And very few transgender people change their mind.

  • ALL gender-affirming care is:
    • Age-appropriate

    • Medically necessary

    • Supported by all major medical organizations

    • Made in consultation with medical and mental health professionals AND parents

  • And in many cases, this care is lifesaving!
    • A recent study from the Trevor Project provides data supporting this — transgender youth with access to gender-affirming hormone therapy have lower rates of depression and are at a lower risk for suicide.

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