Transgender people — the Republican hot button of choice this year — took a beating in the House and Senate today.
By overwhelming majorities, the House endorsed legislation that will likely end medical services for transgender people younger than 18. The Senate endorsed legislation to ban transgender women from sports from kindergarten through college, though none currently is participating in Arkansas.
The Senate voted 28-7 for SB 354 by Sen. Missy Irvin to prohibit transgender women from participating in the sports of their gender, from kindergarten through college.
Irvin pitched the bill as she did in committee, by denying the reality of transgender people and describing transgender women as men seeking to take advantage in sports. There are no transgender athletes in Arkansas today and no research that supports the notion of an advantage for such competitors.
The bill does not prohibit transgender men, aided by testosterone, from participating in women’s sports.
This is cookie-cutter legislation being promoted by Republicans in legislatures around the country. Transgender people are the new Blacks and illegal aliens — a handy political cudgel. Although it is a tiny and cruelly oppressed minority regularly subjected to bodily violence and enduring a higher risk of suicide, they have become a whipping post for the likes of Missy Irvin.
Irvin’s diversionary talking points continue to be irrelevant, if not tiresome. She suggested the girls’ soccer team in her hometown of Mountain View is somehow in danger from the never-happened participation of a transgender woman.
She contended the bill presented no problems in Idaho. In fact, it prompted a lawsuit and a federal court ruling blocking the law.
Sens. Joyce Elliott, Linda Chesterfield, Clarke Tucker, Keith Ingram and Greg Leding, all Democrats, spoke against the bill. Elliott read a letter from Stephanie Gray of Conway, a former collegiate tennis player who works with trans youths. She said there’s no evidence of an athletic advantage in sports. She said the NCAA allows transgender women to play in women’s competitions.
Elliott said she’d taught trans students who’d been shunned by fellow students and “discarded” by teachers. She said she knew the feeling as a Black student integrating an all-white high school. She played basketball well then and thought she’d be welcomed. But she wasn’t allowed to play on a pretext that the coach had no uniform to fit her. “I was shunned, just like these kids are going to be shunned.” Transgender girls are girls, she said, and they should be allowed to play.
Chesterfield, like Elliott a Black senator, said it was an attack on children because they are “other.” She has borne the “indignity” of the “other” label for years, she said. Tucker said the bill likely was unconstitutional under federal law protecting gender identity. He noted that the Olympics Committee, the NCAA and even the Arkansas Activities Association had clear rules governing gender identity.
“It’s going to put Arkansas on the wrong side of history one more time,” Tucker said.
Irvin was angered about the talk about transgender students. She said there’s no mention of the unfairness to women. Perhaps, Sen. Irvin, because there has been no demonstrated unfairness to women in Arkansas on account of transgender participation.
The bill goes to the House.
In the House, the vote was 70-22 for Rep. Robin Lundstrum’s HB 1570 to ban surgery or hormone treatment or any other medical services for transgender children younger than 18. Here’s the roll call.
Rep. Deborah Ferguson said the bill was a “solution looking for a problem.” She said children are being referred to UAMS and Children’s Hospital to deal with complex issues and receiving good care. She said physician services include referrals for counseling and those will be prevented by this bill, despite Lundstrum’s representations to the contrary. “These are struggling kids,” she said. “This bill is just intended to make life more miserable and discriminate against a very tiny minority of kids.”
She also said she was offended by Lundstrum’s references to “mutilation” of children. She said, “No gender surgery is being done on youth in Arkansas.”
Rep. Tippi McCullough noted that Lundstrum had produced no Arkansas parents of transgender children in committee testimony in support of the bill and she produced no doctor among her witnesses, mostly from out of state, who’d provided services to a transgender child.
Rep. Mary Bentley read extensive Bible quotes. McCollough objected that Bible verses weren’t relevant to the bill. When the speaker urged her to speak on the bill, Bentley read some more Bible verses.
Rep. Nicole Clowney said the bill would lead to more suicides. It’s just another harmful piece of legislation aimed at another marginalized community, she said.
McCullough, speaking against the bill, said she knew what it means to be discriminated against, having been fired from a job for marrying a woman. She said this bill is “misguided and cruel” and she faulted the legislature for spending so much time discriminating against a tiny minority. How, she asked, does this make Arkansas better?
People fear what they don’t know, she said. A good place to begin understanding would be to listen to parents, children and doctors. In committee, she said, members heard a parent say her son might kill himself if he can’t get access to hormone treatment; social workers said the bill does harm, it doesn’t protect children; a pediatrician said the legislature is the wrong place to have a discussion that has been decided by all major medical groups; an expert endocrinologist talked of working with more than 200.
Lundstrum again invoked mutilation in closing. She acknowledged the suicide risk. But she said she feared children making poor decisions when they were too young.
The bill goes now to the Senate. Judging by today’s vote you can chalk it up. Governor Hutchinson hasn’t yet demonstrated the gumption to veto the likes of these bills — legally questionable and transparently cruel. And yet he continues to harbor the notion that this legislature might pass a hate crimes bill to show it’s not a state stuck in the moral stone ages.
His notion seems like a pipe dream.
It is precisely hate of LGBTQ people that predicts defeat of a hate crimes bill.
PS: The Human Rights Campaign distributed a letter today in opposition to both pieces of “harmful” legislation signed by these groups:
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
American Counseling Association
American School Counselor Association
American School Health Association
Association of Title IX Administrators
Child Welfare League of America
Mental Health America
National Association for College Admission Counseling
National Association of School Nurses
National Association of School Psychologists
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Association of Social Workers
National Education Association