Arkansas Leads the Country in Denying Trans Kids Basic Rights

Arkansas Leads the Country in Denying Trans Kids Basic Rights
Photo:Win McNamee (Getty Images)

On Monday, Arkansas’s state legislature became the first to deny trans children basic access to gender-affirming medical care.

The legislation, which passed with a 28 to 7 vote in the state Senate, will now head to the office of Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has made it clear he plans to sign it: Just last week, he signed a different anti-trans bill into law, banning trans girls from playing on school sports teams that reflect their gender identity.

“[It’s] the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, told NBC News on Monday, of the healthcare bill. “I really worry about the fact that we’re just a few votes away from some of the most sweeping and damaging and potentially genocidal laws from ever being passed, and we barely have a mention of it in the bigger national conversation of what’s going on in this particular moment in U.S. history.”

Strangio was alluding to the spate of anti-trans bills that have been introduced across the country since the start of this year, the content of which generally falls into two broad categories: bills preventing trans children from competing in school sports alongside cis children of the same gender, and bills restricting their access to healthcare.

As Jezebel’s Harron Walker wrote on Saturday, these two legislative templates are strategically linked: “Put another way, a bunch of them [the bills] want to keep trans kids from transitioning, and, failing that, a bunch of the others will punish those who do so by pushing them out of public life.”

These coordinated attacks on transgender rights recalls the period, beginning in the Obama era, when bathroom bills were conservatives’s anti-trans legislation of choice. Much like the bathroom bills, trans athlete bans stoke transphobic panic and weaponized the image of innocent cis girls.

The health care restrictions—like the kind Arkansas is slated to pass into law—take a slightly different tack, disguising its harmful agenda as concern for trans children. On Monday, Arkansas state Sen. Alan Clark said he believed the bill would “protect children from making mistakes that they will have a very difficult time coming back from.”

It goes without saying that people intent on denying trans people’s existence (not to mention science) can’t possibly know what’s best for trans children. That they are the ones who so often get to decide anyway does more harm than they can imagine.

“I’ve come so far, I made a goal, and for that to be taken away from me is sad,” Zuriel Hooks, 18, told NBC News. In Alabama, where Hooks lives, conservative lawmakers are seeking to to deny gender-affirming healthcare to anyone younger than 19, including patients who are currently in the midst of receiving such care.

“This is something I want and need in my life to make me feel like me,” she said. “I don’t want to see that taken away at all.”

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