“You’re on the wrong side of history”: Fossil students respond to anti-transgender laws across the country

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Lizzy Camp

A number of bills anti-transgender have been put forward, weighing on trans youth across the country.

By Lizzy Camp, Fossil Ridge High School

This article contains mentions suicide and self harm. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or The Trevor Project. 

Across the United States, an epidemic is spreading. Five states have passed laws limiting the ability of transgender youth to play in team sports or receive medical treatment. These bills are an outright attack on trans rights and trans youth. Although none have been proposed in Colorado, representatives of the state have spoken out against bills that would keep LGBTQ+ rights protected, like the Equality Act. Students at Fossil Ridge High School have been affected by these laws, even from afar. The exclusion of trans youth is haunting America, and students are dedicated to taking a stand.

These new laws can mainly be divided into two categories: laws about trans youth and sports, and laws surrounding gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth. States that proposed these bills include Texas, Arkansas (who recently became the first state to bar access to trans healthcare for minors), Florida, and many others. Arguments in support of these bills include a range of topics. Lawmakers in support of barring trans women from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity argue that they would have an unfair advantage over other players. This has been seen as a futile argument; only 2% of Americans identify as trans, and even fewer are athletes. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that students should be able to play on teams that align with their gender identity, and that this is beneficial to students’ mental health. 

There are also bills being proposed that bar youth from being able to access gender-affirming healthcare. Legislators in twenty-one states have proposed bills that block treatment to trans youth. These treatments include puberty blockers, which will halt things like chest growth, deepening voice, and facial hair. It has been described as a “pause button.” Hormone therapies are also being attacked, with the main argument being that these treatments are irreversible, although that claim has been debunked many times. Another argument is that trans youth cannot be trusted to make these decisions since they are young, however, treatments almost always require guardian approval.

Being able to actually transition is really just vital to survival”

— Abe Gooch, 10

Although none of these bills have been proposed in Colorado yet, hurtful comments against the LGBTQ community have reached home. Republic Congresswoman Lauren Boebert has actively spoken out against the Equality Act. If this act was passed, it would protect people in the LGBTQ community from being fired or evicted because of sexuality or gender identity. The Equality Act would also allow trans athletes to compete with the gender they identify with. Bobert has frequently spoken out against this bill at several rallies. 

Students at Fossil Ridge High School have been affected by these bills and the comments of lawmakers. Abe Gooch, a sophomore, said that although the bills have not affected him personally, they have hurt his mental health. “I’ve definitely researched them to the point where I’m very upset over the effects that they have on other trans people,” Gooch said. 

Bills like the one in Arkansas have been criticized heavily for the way they negatively affect the mental health of trans youth. According to a national survey done by The Trevor Project, over half of trans and non-binary youth have considered suicide, and 21% have attempted suicide. Youth that had access to gender-affirming healthcare and clothing also reported lower rates of suicide compared to those who did not have access.

States that are colored orange have proposed anti-trans bills. These bills limit the ability for trans youth to get medical care or play on sports teams. (Lizzy Camp)

Gooch has experienced the life-saving qualities of gender-affirming healthcare. “Being able to actually transition is really just vital to survival,” Gooch said. Gooch’s twin brother, Adam Gooch, also commented how gender-affirming healthcare helped him. “Yes, transitioning is much more beneficial to not wanting to die,” Gooch said with a laugh. 

Dean Royse, also a sophomore, said that access to healthcare has had a huge impact on his mental health. “I can actually talk to people now,” he stated with a smile. Royse has also researched the bills being proposed in other states. “The more politicians think stuff like this is okay, the more it’s gonna spread,” he said. He also commented that the bills being proposed were overt bigotry. “They [lawmakers] aren’t even trying to hide it anymore.”

“We should all just come together as a community and help each other. But this is separating us,” said Quinn Whittington, a sophomore. Whittington mentioned that if laws like these were to come to Colorado, Whittington’s mental health would most likely decline. Whittington has not had any experiences with gender-affirming healthcare, but even changing names and pronouns has helped Whittington. 

In 2016, North Carolina proposed a bill which would limit which public restrooms transgender people would use. There was swift retribution against this bill, and it was repealed by the next year. So far there has been no major backlash against these bills. Since the start of 2021, eight bills targeting LGBTQ people have become law, and ten are still awaiting signature. According to the Human Rights Campaign, this is “the worst year for state legislative attacks against LGBTQ people in history.” These bills are making history for all the wrong reasons. They will lead to an uptick in trans youth suicides, and a decline in youth mental health. 

Royse’s parting words to lawmakers described the ridiculousness of these bills the best. “Bigotry has never been sustainable. You’re on the wrong side of history, somehow managing to fail an open note test.”

This story was originally published on Etched in Stone on April 29, 2021.