A wave of bills designed to limit transgender health care and participation in sports is sweeping the legislature.
Nine bills have been filed by Republican legislators that will specifically affect the transgender community. Some of the proposed legislation would put reporting requirements on professionals including teachers and doctors requiring them to out trans children to their parents.
Other bills would make it a felony to help children transition and categorize assisting a child with gender transition as child abuse. Republican legislators filing the bills say the legislation is necessary because children may undergo physical changes they later regret if they are allowed to transition.
There is a single Democrat-sponsored bill that would require death certificates to list gender identity.
Sen. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said he introduced SB1138 because he is worried about kids and “somebody else making a decision for a child. It’s a decision they should be making on their own.” The bill would prevent children from being able to transition by making it illegal for health care professionals to provide gender transition medical care. Petersen said the bill was brought to him by Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod.
“Minors are undergoing these procedures and these procedures don’t really provide answers for a child that’s struggling with their biological sex,” said Herrod. She said that these children need counseling and therapy because the vast majority “grow comfortable with their biological gender over the course of growing up.”
Herrod said she also worked with Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, on SB1165, which bans transgender women from competing on women’s athletic teams. Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, has filed a similar bill. Barto’s bill passed the house in 2020 when Barto was a House member, but it died in the Senate as Covid was taking over.
Herrod does not use the term “transgender women” but said that “biological men” have physical advantages over women and calls transgender athletes the end of Title IX. “The issue that we’re addressing again is biological males identifying as females and playing on girl’s teams.” Herrod did not give an example of this in Arizona.
Herrod has worked on several bills that affect the LGBT+ community. In coming up with this legislation, she said she has heard from concerned parents and cisgender athletes, but said she only received input from one member of the gay community and would not disclose who or what their position was.
Herrod said there are two problems that need to be solved; “biological males are competing on female sports teams” and “protecting children from being given drugs and procedures that will change their lives forever… It’s not about gender identity it’s not about transition.”
Rogers introduced SB1045 that would require school administrative officials to tell a child’s parents if the child says that they may be transgender. Additionally, it prevents health care professionals from helping trans children to transition. She also introduced SB1130 that would make it illegal for health care professionals to help trans children transition and classify it as child abuse.
Rep. Cesar Chávez, D-Phoenix, said that he came out to his school counselor before his family for fear of being displaced from his home. He said of the SB1045, “just imagine what that would do if that got to a parent who potentially doesn’t understand… We’ve seen youth displaced from their home, we’ve seen youth suffer from violence.”
Chávez said the gravest ramification of outing children to their families is suicide. According to a survey by the Trevor Project in 2021, 72% of trans youth considered or attempted suicide with the majority under the age of 18 compared to 42% of LGBT+ cisgender youth. Rogers did not respond to questions about her bills – SB1045 and SB1046.
On the other side of the aisle, SB1186 was filed by Sen. Rosanna Gabaldon, D-Green Valley, and would require death certificates to record the deceased’s gender identity. Sen. Raquel Teran, D-Phoenix, said that if there are not more “proactive” bills being introduced by the Democrats it is because they are in “defense mode.”
At a press conference over Zoom on January 18, the LGBTQ caucus headed by Chávez, and the HRC Foundation spoke about these bills and the “anti-LGBTQ agenda” at the state Legislature. “This is an attack on human rights. We’re criminalizing individuals for being who they are,” said Chávez. “The LGBTQ caucus will continue to fight against these bills.”
Chávez said he will hold meetings with stakeholders, have conversations across the aisle and get testimony from families of transgender people. That being said, the Democrats who generally oppose these bills are in the minority in both the House and Senate.
Member of the HRC Foundation’s Parents for Transgender Equality National Council Lizette Trujillo is a parent of a trans child in Tucson and spoke at the press conference. “These bills dehumanize our loved ones … This causes irreparable harm on the transgender community.”
Former HRC national board member, current physician and transgender woman Dr. Bobbi Lancaster has spoken against similar bills for years, and she disagrees with a suggestion in one bill that trans individuals continue to suffer psychiatric symptoms after transition.
“The insinuation is that the procedures and hormones should never have been done, and that there is regret,” Lancaster said. “Nothing could be farther from the truth… I wish the lawmakers would stop using this marginalized group as pawns, to remain in power, and get on with representing their constituents and solving real problems.”
All but two of these bills have been assigned to committees. Three of the bills will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB1165 was passed by the committee Thursday.
There are no gay or trans members of the Senate and no trans members of the House or any higher office position. The three members of the Legislature’s LGBT+ caucus are cisgender Democratic men in the House.
Four bills were filed in the House by Rep. John Fillmore, R-Apache Junction, and six bills were filed in the Senate. The LGBTQ caucus has three members in the legislature: Rep. Chávez, Rep. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, and Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson. There are no LGBTQ caucus members in the Senate and no transgender legislators in Arizona.
Former political director of Equality Arizona Brianna Westbrook said that bills like this are the reason she is currently running for a seat in the Legislature. “There is not a voice at the state Legislature that is trans and as a state representative that is something that I will actively push back on … To call these bills what they are they’re transphobic and they hurt people.”