State Legislature Passes Controversial Trans Youth Bill

It has been over a month since the passing of HB1750 in Arkansas’s legislature. The bill has drawn criticism on both the local level and nationwide, and critics worry that it is part of a larger wave of discriminatory legislation targeting transgender individuals. A Central student who wished to remain anonymous for his privacy and protection is among those concerned for the future of transgender Arkansans. 

“The healthcare [bill] adds so many extra hoops to jump through when there were already a bunch in the first place that involve lots of time and money,” the student said. 

The bill prevents transgender youth under the age of 18 from receiving hormone blockers and opposite-sex hormones, regardless of doctoral or parental consent. 

There are an estimated 117 pieces of transgender legislation in states nationwide, impacting around 45,100 transgender children, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.  In states including Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi, there are proposed laws requiring the designation of athletic teams or sports based on biological sex. In Iowa there is a bathroom bill requiring students to use the bathroom which corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificate; and in Arizona there is a bill to penalize schools for using students’ pronouns that differ from those indicated on a child’s birth certificate. 

Doctors consistently support affirmation and care for transgender children, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry supports access to hormone treatments and puberty blockers for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria, but conservative legislators in the state see such treatments as dangerous experimentation. Arkansas families with transgender children are worried, and some are considering leaving the state, but it’s not an option for everyone.

“I have no way to leave. I have a lot of time left in Arkansas, and I hope I can stay here in the future, albeit only if these bills are overturned,” the student said. “There is time and a possibility everything will be okay. But for now it sucks. Especially for those directly dealing with the repercussions. We just gotta work hard to change it.”

The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to fight against the anti-transgender legislation in Arkansas, and local organization Intransitive, a group advocating trans rights in Arkansas, is also involved in challenging the legislation. Historically legislation such as this has come under scrutiny and resulted in economic and legal losses for states.  HB2 in North Carolina, also known as the “bathroom bill,” came under scrutiny in 2016 for limiting accommodations for transgender people. The result: the state of North Carolina lost $3.76 billion in economic gains. Companies Paypal and CoStar cancelled plans to bring jobs to the state, the NAACP initiated a national boycott, and Ringo Starr cancelled a concert.  A similar initiative was taken against an anti-trans bathroom bill in Texas in 2017 as well, and that cost the state $8.5 billion.  

It is plausible that legal action will be taken against the bills, but their effects are inevitable for the near future. In her testimony against HB1750, Michelle Hutchinson, a physician who runs a clinic for transgender children at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, testified that since the bill passed, four young people in her program attempted suicide. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk for depression and suicide. 

“The easiest thing people can do is to educate themselves. It is so easy to look up what gender dysphoria is. And, if somehow you can learn how hurtful experiencing discomfort in [your] gender can be, it helps you understand and respect others,” the student said. “The other easiest thing is to respect trans people, especially kids. Just use their names if they ask you to. If you mess up, correct yourself, quickly say sorry and move on. And, finally, vote when you can and elect representatives who will listen and who will advocate for trans rights. If you can’t vote, sign petitions and email representatives. It will take time, as all things do, but we can do it for the sake of trans kids.”