Discrimination is Given a Bill Number: Arkansas Becomes the Most Dangerous State for Transgender Youth

Image Courtesy of KTLA News

Image Courtesy of KTLA News

Tyler Dyer, Staff Writer

This Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed H.B. 1570, a bill that would make it illegal for transgender minors to receive gender-affirming therapy, medication, surgery, and other forms of necessary healthcare. Despite this Arkansas bill being vetoed, the General Assembly has voted to override the governor’s decision. This legislation also allows doctors to refuse to treat LGBTQ patients due to religious or moral objections. Providing health care workers and institutions the right to not participate in non-emergency treatments that would violate their conscience.

Arkansas is now the first state to ban gender-affirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth. In just the first quarter of this year, 2021 has broken the record for the greatest amount of transphobic legislation introduced in a year. A total of 93 anti-transgender bills have been introduced thus far. Most of these bills attempt to ban transgender women and girls’ participation in female sports or ban all transgender youth from accessing medically necessary, gender-affirming health care.

The national uproar over the brutality of the policies being enacted has pressured the governor of Arkansas to sign that veto. Gov. Asa Hutchinson has held onto the rational belief that the political cost to his career that could ensue outweighed the political benefits of supporting transphobic policies and rhetoric. Those who support the anti-transgender bill claim it would protect youth from undergoing irreversible or unnecessary medical treatments. H.B. 1570 says “the risks of gender transition procedures far outweigh any benefit at this stage of a clinical study on these procedures.” However, the consensus of medical professionals declares the exact opposite of these claims.

The vice president for advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, Sam Brinton states “When that discrimination is given a bill number, it can be devastating,” The research and studies that Mx. Brinton is citing indicates that young transgender and nonbinary people who have reported experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity were twice as likely to have attempted suicide. And those who reported having at least one “gender-affirming space” were 25% less likely to have attempted suicide in the past year.

There have been many efforts to prevent transphobic bills like this from passing and other efforts to provide legal protections for when they do pass. An open letter condemning the actions taken by over 25 states across the country to introduce, pass and sign anti-transgender legislation was published by the Human Rights Campaign, The NCAA LGBTQ OneTeam, a group of NCAA-trained facilitators at colleges across the country. These organized groups who are mobilizing to prevent these children’s transitions will not stop at one defeat or one big victory. If Arkansas is currently the worst state in America for trans kids, it won’t be for long.