A transgender woman shared a heartfelt plea in an op-ed to stop H.B. 1008, a bill that would harm transgender youth in schools across South Dakota.
While South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard claimed he had never met a transgender person before, Kendra Heathscott shared in her powerful letter in the Argus Leader that she met the Governor on several occasions at her old school.
“I have many fond memories of you sitting at my table and talking with the other students and me during lunch. I loved hearing the stories that you would share with us,” she shared. “Do you remember that story you used to tell us about the mountain lions? Or do you maybe remember the Christmas show we used to put on at Methodist Church?”
H.B. 1008 would prevent transgender youth in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity and would put state law in direct conflict with the U.S. Department of Education and Title IX non-discrimination protections. Already passed through the House of Representatives, the discriminatory legislation now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
“I am urging you not to pass HB 1008. This bill, as I am sure you are already aware, is an attack on transgender students in the Rushmore State,” she concluded. “I know you have always had the children at heart, and I hope you still have that same huge heart I was aware of when I was 10.”
The legislation would only exacerbate the discrimination and harassment that transgender students already face. Based on findings from HRC’s groundbreaking survey of over 10,000 LGBT-identified youth, the HRC Foundation, in partnership with Gender Spectrum, released a report in 2014 on gender-expansive youth – or young respondents who identified as transgender or chose “other.” Findings revealed the heartbreaking reality that gender-expansive youth take the brunt of exclusion and verbal harassment both inside and outside of school compared to their peers. For example, 40 percent of gender-expansive youth reported being excluded “frequently or often” by their peers. Nearly the same number of these youth reported “frequently or often” being verbally harassed and called names at school, and 42 percent reported being called anti-gay slurs.
HRC and the ACLU of South Dakota have repeatedly called on lawmakers to stop the attacks on transgender children. While H.B. 1008 is dangerously close to becoming law, two other anti-LGBT bills have also passed the South Dakota House of Representatives this year and a fourth anti-LGBT bill has been introduced.