In a heartfelt open letter to South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard published in the Sioux Falls The Argus Leader, Wayne Maines, the father of a transgender daughter, urges Daugaard to reject HB 1008 - an outrageous bill that would prevent trans students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.
The legislation has been passed by the state legislature, and now with the governor.
“I am reaching out to you because your upcoming decision on HB 1008 impacts my daughter, my family and so many others across the nation,” Maines wrote. “Nicole has lost a number of transgender friends to suicide and she’s read the news stories about transgender people who have been murdered simply because of who they are. I cannot describe in words how difficult each conversation following a friend’s death has been. I am very concerned that you might support laws and policies that will require I do it again.”
The story of the Maines’ struggle to keep their family whole in the face of anti-transgender harassment and discrimination was chronicled in the critically acclaimed book by Amy Ellis Nutt, “Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family.”
HB 1008 would put South Dakota school districts at risk of losing federal funds under Title IX, forcing them into an untenable position of choosing between state and federal law. It would also tie the hands of school administrators and teachers who would no longer have the flexibility they need to find workable solutions in coordination with transgender students and their parents.
Additionally, the legislation would only exacerbate the discrimination and harassment that transgender students already face.
“Transgender children across the nation go to school everyday afraid – a survey by the HRC Foundation found that three-quarters of transgender students feel unsafe in school settings,” Maines writes. “They sit in class and learn about powerful words, like courage, freedom and equality. Words that transgender people know well and dream will one day be true. Words that some of our leaders talk about but have forgotten how to use.”
Daugaard has agreed to meet with transgender students before making his decision on whether to sign the bill; HRC will continue to monitor this bill, as well as nearly two dozen other anti-transgender bills targeting youth that have been proposed across the nation.