Arkansas recently passed two bills discriminating against transgender individuals, one targeting trans women participating in women’s sports, and the other targeting trans youth seeking gender-affirming care. Arkansas also has a third bill targeting trans youth in committee.
Fairness in Women’s Sports Act
The first bill passed, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, bans transgender women from participating in women’s sports. Arkansas Sen. Missy Irvin, who sponsored this bill, said, “There is nothing in my bill that bans any individual from participating in or competing in athletics. It clearly states the categories of athletics and who is eligible to compete in those categories based on their actual biological sex.”
Transgener women are women. What about them makes them ineligible to participate in women’s sports?
In the bill, it is said that men have higher levels of testosterone, affecting traits such as hemoglobin levels, body fat content, storage and use of carbohydrates and the development of type 2 muscle fibers which result in men being able to generate higher speed and power during physical activity, citing Doriane Lambelet Coleman’s “Sex in Sport” as the source for this information.
This bill completely disregards that all human bodies are different and you do not simply have to be assigned male at birth to be a woman with higher testosterone levels than other women. For example, a common hormonal disorder is polycystic ovary syndrome.
PCOS is caused by an excess of androgens in people who are assigned female at birth, and may lead to irregular or prolonged periods, unwanted body hair growth and enlarged ovaries that may not function properly.
PCOS is not usually diagnosed until the person affected is in their 20s or 30s, but it can also be diagnosed as young at 11 years old. PCOS affects between eight and 20% of people who are AFAB.
Another problem with this bill is ignoring the fact that some trans women may have taken puberty blockers to prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics during puberty. So, testosterone levels would not be as high as they would in a trans woman who went through biological male puberty before she began her transition.
This bill is transphobic and discriminatory, period.
Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act
The SAFE Act, sponsored by Rep. Robin Lundstrum, bans transgender youth (under 18) from seeking gender-affirming care. While Gov. Hutchinson vetoed this bill, the Arkansas House and Senate voted to override his veto and passed the bill anyway.
Supporters of this bill cited a 2011 Swedish study when saying there is an increase in the level of suicidal ideation following surgeries to alleviate gender dysphoria. The study’s author, Cecilia Dhenje, has since said it is widely misinterpreted and that following studies show that media gender confirming interventions reduce gender dysphoria.
In a statement from the ACLU of Arkansas, director Holly Dickson said, “Medical decisions belong to trans youth, their parents, and their doctor – not the government. This bill flies in the face of common decency, basic human rights, and the advice of every major medical association – not to mention federal law. What could possibly be more cruel than trying to take away a child’s access to the care that could save their life?”
The bill prevents trans youth in Arkansas from accessing puberty blockers, hormones and gender-affirming surgeries. While the surgeries were not performed on trans youth in Arkansas before the bill, now youth will not even be able to access other forms of care to alleviate gender dysphoria.
Puberty blockers and many effects of hormones are reversible, puberty is not. Forcing trans youth to develop secondary sex characteristics of a gender which is not theirs is cruel. If they understand their body enough to know they are trans, they understand their body enough to be able to make a parent and physician-guided decision on whether or not to start some form of gender-affirming care.
This bill is transphobic, discriminatory and cruel toward transgender youth.
HB1749, sponsored by Rep. Mary Bentley, is in committee currently, and would require Arkansas public school employees to refer to students using only the name and sex listed on a student’s birth certificate. There is no other way to interpret this bill other than as transphobic, discriminatory, cruel and downright disgusting.
Trans youth have a right to be referred to by a name and set of pronouns that makes them feel safe and comfortable.
Arkansas lawmakers have the blood of the transgender community on their hands after passing these discriminatory bills.
A 2020 study by Julia C. Sorbara, Lyne N. Chiniara, Shelby Thompson and Mark R. Palmert showed trans youth who sought gender-affirming care later in life were more likely to experience depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation, as opposed to trans youth who sought gender-affirming care at a younger age.
These bills contribute to the mental health struggles of children and take away their bodily autonomy.
Trans rights are human rights and trans youth have a right to seek care which would make them feel more comfortable as themselves.