The toll is mounting in the Arkansas legislature’s war on transgender children, with perhaps the cruelest for sheer personal pettiness on the agenda in the House Education Committee this morning.
It is Rep. Mary Bentley’s HB 1749 to require public school employees to refer to children by the name and sex listed on their birth certificates. It is the intentional, demeaning ghosting of transgender children. (UPDATE: It was announced this morning that the bill would be amended and so would not be heard in committee today.)
Heather Steadham has written a fine essay on this lunacy, just posted on the Arkansas Blog. The supposed exception for nicknames is ambiguous, she notes. What if a nickname isn’t masculine or feminine enough for the sex police? The birth certificate compliance will be difficult, too. Who can produce one on demand? She proposes in Swiftian fashion, a solution. Teachers must inspect the genitalia of all students. Drop your drawers, Mary. Want to be sure you’re not really a Gary.
Arkansas is not alone in persecuting transgender children — it’s the Republican culture war of the moment. Nothing like a tiny, powerless minority for a bully to batter. But Arkansas has broken out of the pack with its single-minded obsession.
The latest national outlet to take notice is The New Republic, with this good article on “The Republican Disinformation Campaign behind Arkansas’s Vile Anti-Trans Law.” It talks about the so-called Christian right-wingers driving the campaign. It focuses on the legislature’s groundbreaking passage of a law to ban transgender health care for minors, a bill awaiting Governor Hutchinson’s signature.
Baptist News Global also has written on the legislation.
Hutchinson has already signed two anti-trans bills — one banning transgender girls in athletics and another to allow denial of health services for reasons of “conscience.” He soon will get another transgender sports ban bill to burnish Leslie Rutledge’s anti-trans posture. He also has awaiting his signature a bill to require special notice to parents and curriculum review and opt-out rights for any mention of sexual orientation or gender identity in school courses. He has allowed passage in earlier sessions of laws that allow discrimination against LGBT people in the name of religion and prohibit civil rights protection of LGBT people by cities and counties.
UPDATE: The House today will vote on a resolution, the work of the poisonous Family Council, nominal in support of protecting the welfare of children. What they mean is protecting them from even a mention of transgender people, people of different sexual orientation or abortion and to resist any federal rules to the contrary. It’s effectively a statement that the Arkansas legislature isn’t concerned if its bigotry contributes to teen suicide. PS: It passed easily.
This wave of bills, reported Katelyn Burns, has grown “directly from the social media disinformation campaign” concerning a custody battle over a trans girl in Texas whose parents disagreed about the validity of her gender identity. The point of such campaigns isn’t merely to pass laws that would intensify anti-trans discrimination, whether that’s in education or health care or across the board. Rather, they are used to transform the attention trans rights have won in recent years into something just shy of a conspiracy theory: one in which trans athletes are dominating sports and in which young trans people can get care on demand from parents and doctors, all under the influence of “trans activists”—adult outsiders.
Kevin Heifner, a Baptist layman and physician in Little Rock, Ark., is among the critics of the Arkansas conscience rule and was quoted in Baptist Press:
“This flies in the face of every basic tenet that I signed onto when I went to medical school.”
“This legislation not only is misguided but it is poorly written,” he said. “It is deliberately constructed to leave open gaping holes for the ability of physicians in the near future to decide to not treat certain classes of individuals based on their conscience. This flies in the face of every basic tenet that I signed onto when I went to medical school.”
He said the legislature is legislating morality not medical care. Which is precisely what’s intended. You need listen only to one Rapert speech to understand this.
In Arkansas, the campaign by these good Christians has included mockery of children and Biblical imprecations against trans people. It has meant rude treatment, including one arrest and truncated testimony in committee, where Religious Right experts from out of state are allowed to filibuster their dark and inaccurate theories. TNR comments:
The pretense that this bill was meant to help children falls away when you look at the coordinated messaging from the Family Research Council. As Yambú [an Arkansas trans activist] described, members of FRC like Joseph Backholm, a senior fellow and anti-LGBTQ rights activist, came to Arkansas to testify. In a policy brief on the trans youth health care ban in Arkansas, FRC instructs supporters to adopt a few key tactics: that “‘Gender transition’ is an experiment” and not treatment, that “The government should not force taxpayers to fund it,” and that young people are harmed by it. These are not original talking points; in a sense, FRC has just adopted their anti-abortion claims to use against trans people.
The TNR article notes how complicated the question is. I received a message on Facebook this morning that illustrates just how complicated. It is too long for the Republican committee chairs waving anti-trans legislation along, but it adds a dimension to an already complicated issue that Jason Rapert and others insist is a simple matter of “common sense.”
I know that you guys have heard everything there is to hear about the anti-transgender issues that’s going on right now. I want to express to whoever it is that will listen, because I have reached out to senators representatives and we’ve sent emails and it appears that no one is listening or hearing our transgender youth, adults or their supporters.
I was born Intersex. Technically speaking a hermaphrodite or rather having both male and female sexual reproductive organs. At age 3 they took away my female parts minus my breast. What happened to me was I grew up looking half male and half female because of a choice made against my will. Now on that note I made a decision for myself to have my body corrected and now I’m all female.
I have a female skeletal frame as well. Unfortunately the medical community the religious community and the political community doesn’t recognize Intersex people nor transgender people. In order for me to be able or to have any surgeries or have any further surgeries I have to submit myself to WPATH guidelines and be labeled as a transgender woman.
Now if you want to run on technicalities. The first surgery at age 3 was a type of transition surgery. “Fact” The second one of which was my choice was in fact labeled a transition surgery. Regardless of what I am labeled as I’m always going to be an intersex person.
Now on that note. What’s going on right now with these anti-transgender bills will not only cause detriment and possible attempted suicide rates going up or suicide rates in general going up, but people will be moving out of this state because they are rejected and refused. Not to mention what will happen to intersex infants and adults Who are typically labeled as transgender, deformed, defected and in need of corrective surgeries.
“Fact” many people who are transgender have been discovered to have intersex traits as well. Please help us! We are not experiments. My transgender brothers and sisters are not political and religious pawns. We need extra help with getting our voices heard. Please help us on this day while my transgender brothers and sisters are gathering on the steps of the capital, join us in amplifying our voices!
Buckle up for another day of cruelty.