Alabama, please leave transgender kids alone. Again.
On Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed SB 184, which would imprison doctors for up to 10 years for providing puberty blockers and hormones to transgender youth, and HB 322, which forces transgender children to use the bathroom of their sex assigned at birth. The latter bill also bans discussion of “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through fifth grade.
In an article from the Montgomery Advertiser, senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign called the bills "the single most anti-transgender legislative package in history."
There’s something to be said about a state that robs one of the most vulnerable populations of the basic right of choosing where they do something as mundane as use the bathroom.
Given that Alabama ranks 47th in education according to the U.S. News and World Report, Ivey was astute in her observation that “we need to focus on what matters — core instruction, like reading and math,” in a statement she made after signing HB 322.
However, these laws seem to focus on the opposite. Although there has been a recent funding increase for schools and teachers, including a pay raise, this bill effectively withdraws any positive impact that funding would have had.
A well-rounded education can, and should, incorporate the basic knowledge of sex and gender. Keeping the conversation out of K-12 public schools won’t keep the conversation out of their heads, especially with the Internet at most of their fingertips. It would be more effective to have a conversation in schools about these topics that can be moderated and safe.
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A renewed focus on reading and math is what Alabama public schools need, but giving educators all of the resources and pay raises in the world doesn't undo the harm this sort of legislation can cause students who are forced to use bathrooms that don’t align with their identity or forced to hide parts of themselves because it makes some others uncomfortable.
In the same statement, Ivey said that dubbing HB 322 the “Don’t Say Gay” amendment is “misleading, false and just plain wrong.” What, then, Ivey, should we call this bill? The bill bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. Educators can’t talk about the gay community.
What is also harmful, though, is the fact that even medical assistance cannot be offered to trans youth without dire consequences. Doctors have a duty to "do no harm," and not allowing trans youth to have access to something that is proven to be beneficial to their health and overall life outcome is not just stupid, it's cruel.
Lawmakers seem to be set on an agenda that does more harm than help for its citizens. Despite all of this, Alabamians still love Alabama.
When will its government love them back?
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