The meeting with two trans women that might have helped convince the Arkansas governor to oppose the anti-trans bill

Trans rights
People take part in rally outside New York’s Stonewall Inn in 2017.

  • Arkansas has become the first state to block transition-related care for trans youth.
  • Gov. Hutchinson said he met with trans people before deciding to reject the bill, though lawmakers overrode his veto.
  • The state’s only openly trans elected official spoke to Insider about her meeting with the governor.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shortly before Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed a bill that would make Arkansas the first state to block transition-related care for trans youth, he sat down with two trans women to better understand its impact.

On Tuesday afternoon, the state legislature voted to override Hutchinson’s veto, paving the way for it to take effect if the law survives legal challenges. Still, the governor’s veto a day earlier came as a surprise to many LGBTQ advocates around the country, as Hutchinson had already signed two other anti-trans bills, one banning trans girls from girl’s scholastic sports, and the other a sweeping religious exemption for health care providers who can now turn away LGBTQ patients for non-emergencies.

An account of the meeting between the Republican governor, the state’s only openly trans elected official, and an 18-year-old trans women may shed some light on Hutchinson’s surprising opposition to the bill.

The meeting, on March 30, was expected to last 30 minutes, according to Evelyn Rios Stafford, a Justice of the Peace in Fayetteville, who is openly trans.

But the governor had so many questions that it ran 10 minutes long, she said.

“He had a lot of questions,” Rios Stafford told Insider. “I could tell that this was not an issue that he was super familiar with at all.”

A spokesperson for the governor did not respond to questions about the meeting, but Hutchinson has said that he met with trans people and healthcare providers before reaching his decision. The young trans woman who was also present was not immediately available to discuss it.

Rios Stafford said that, as she watched the governor’s press conference less than a week after they had sat across from one another, she heard him echo some of what had come up in their closed-door meeting.

“The bill is overbroad, extreme, and does not grandfather those who are under hormone treatment,” Hutchinson said during his press conference. “I want people in Arkansas and across the country that whether they’re transgender or otherwise, that they’re loved, they’re appreciated, they make part of our state, and we want to send the message of tolerance and diversity.”

The message meant a lot to Rios Stafford, who said she can’t remember a southern Republican governor ever saying that trans people are loved, important members of the state.

Arkansas’ bill, HB 1570, bans puberty blockers and other transition-related care for trans minors. But it is not just limited to harming trans kids, and introduces a host of further restrictions on care for trans adults. It bans state funds, such as Medicaid, from being used towards transition care for trans people of any age.

Studies have shown that puberty blockers help relieve dysphoria triggered by an adolescent’s puberty, and vastly improves mental health overall. The treatment is widely accepted within the medical community, with endorsements from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the Endocrine Society, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

The March 30 meeting was set up by Nicole Clowney, a Democratic state Representative from Fayetteville, Rios Stafford said.

She said that while she was used to meetings with other elected officials being super policy-focused, she was a bit nervous to speak with the governor about an issue that was so personal to her. But she was encouraged that the governor asked specifically how the trans community has been feeling, given all of the hostility of this legislative session.

“He asked how the trans community is reacting to all the bills that the legislature is sending his way,” she said, and told the governor about the community’s anxiety. “Honestly, they’re worried,” she explained. “They don’t know what else is coming down the pipeline.”

Rios Stafford said she explained to the governor that the bill would make life unlivable for a lot of trans people in Arkansas, and that she had been hearing from a lot of folks who are planning to flee the state as soon as possible. “I think that pained him a little bit to hear that,” she said.

The young trans woman told her story of coming out and transitioning in her Arkansas high school, and how she worried the wave of bills passed by state lawmakers would signal a green light for cisgender kids to bully and alienate trans kids.

The governor brought up specific medical questions about the treatments given to trans kids to treat gender dysphoria, Rios Stafford was able to answer some of those questions, but said she deferred to medical experts on others.

At one point during the meeting, Rios Stafford tried to appeal to the governor’s political values as a libertarian and a conservative.

“I was like, ‘Governor, I thought Republicans were supposed to be the party of small government,'” she said, noting that the governor smiled at that comment. “A lot of these bills are reaching down into the classrooms between teachers and their students. They’re reaching down in between families and their doctors. They’re reaching in between coaches and their teams. This is big government.”

Rios Stafford said she emerged from the meeting cautiously optimistic, but prepared for the governor to sign the bill anyway.

“The fact that he asked how the trans community is reacting, at least shows that he acknowledges the existence of the trans community,” Rios Stafford said.

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Arkansas becomes first state to pass bill prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to trans youth

trans supreme court.JPG
  • Arkansas passed a bill prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to trans youth.
  • The Senate passed the bill Monday in a 28-7 vote. The House passed the bill earlier this month.
  • The legislation now goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk to be signed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Arkansas became the first state to pass a bill prohibiting doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care to transgender youth following a vote in the state Senate on Monday.

HB 1570, the “Save Adolescents From Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” prohibits trans youth from accessing health care and insurance coverage for gender-affirming care. The bill passed 28-7 in the state Senate. The state House passed the bill earlier this month.

The bill would prohibit doctors from offering gender confirming horomone treatment or surgery to trans youth. Doctors would also be unable to refer minors to other providers for treatment.

The legislation now goes to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk for signature. He has not publicly said whether he supports the legislation. The governor has five days, not including Sunday, to sign or veto the bill before it becomes law.

If signed, the bill would take effect this summer.

Opponents say if the legislation is enacted, it would be the first prohibition of its kind in the US. LGBTQ advocacy groups, child welfare organizations, and medical professionals have criticized the legislation.

Medical best practice guidelines from the Endocrine Society, Child Mind Institute, and American Psychological Association all recommend that states provide gender-affirming care for trans children. If Hutchinson signs the bill, Arkansas will became the first state to criminalize the vital health services.

Studies have shown children who are unable to access gender-affirming care experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide than trans youth with supportive doctors and families. A 2020 study published in Pediatrics found the earlier transgender youth get care, the less likely they are to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts.

Getting gender-affirming care before puberty can slow or stop some of the changes that are more difficult to reverse like voice deepening, hair growth, and fat distribution.

Arkansas’s HB1570 comes amid a surge of anti-trans bills being considered in state legislatures across the country this year. Insider previously reported that 28 states are voting on anti-trans legislation in 2021.

Arkansas has also proposed two bills that would prevent trans youth from participating in school sports: SB354 and SJR16

This story is breaking. Check back for updates.

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Rachel Levine makes history as the first trans official confirmed by the Senate

Dr. Rachel Levine
Rachel Levine during her confirmation hearing on February 25.

  • Dr. Rachel Levine, a trans woman, has been confirmed as assistant secretary of health.
  • In a 52-48 vote Wednesday, the Senate made history by confirming Levine.
  • The confirmation makes Levine the highest-ranking openly trans person in the federal government.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Senate made history Wednesday by confirming Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health in a 52-48 vote, making her the highest-ranking openly transgender person in the federal government.

All Democrats and independents in the Senate voted to confirm Levine, while Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke with Republicans to make the confirmation a bipartisan one.

Levine’s confirmation has been praised by LGBTQ advocacy groups.

“President Biden committed to appointing our nation’s most qualified leaders to tackle the pandemic and he delivered in choosing Dr. Levine,” former Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, the president of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Yet the importance of this moment extends well-beyond the health of our nation alone.”

Parker added: “At a time when hateful politicians are weaponizing trans lives for their own perceived political gain, Dr. Levine’s confirmation lends focus to the contributions trans people make to our nation and deflates absurd arguments calling for their exclusion.”

Levine’s nomination faced opposition from religious-rights groups as well as some Republican senators.

The former Pennsylvania health secretary remained calm amid aggressive questioning during her confirmation hearing last month.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky faced backlash after he asked Levine during the hearing if she was a supporter of the “surgical destruction of a minor’s genitalia” and believed minors could make “such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?”

Levine responded by saying: “Transgender medicine is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care that have been developed.”

She also told Paul she would discuss the matter further if confirmed.

As assistant secretary of health in the Department of Health and Human Services, Levine will oversee public-health initiatives, and President Joe Biden has said Levine will play an important role in the country’s coronavirus response, according to The Washington Post.

Before serving as Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Levine was the state’s physician general.

In a January statement about her nomination, Biden said she was a “historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead out administration’s health efforts.”

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic – no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability – and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement.

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Trump rants in CPAC speech that women’s sports ‘will die’ if trans athletes are allowed to compete

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 28: Former President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference held in the Hyatt Regency on February 28, 2021 in Orlando, Florida.

  • During his speech at CPAC, Trump took aim at transgender athletes competing in women’s sports.
  • “If this does not change, women’s sports as we know it will die,” Trump said.
  • Many US states are weighing legislation that would restrict transgender youth from competing in sports. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, former President Donald Trump said women’s sports will “die” if trans athletes are allowed to compete.

“Joe Biden and the Democrats are even pushing policies that would destroy women sports,” Trump said, apparently in reference to the Equality Act, which seeks to expand protections for the LGBTQ community and was passed in the House last week.

“A lot of new records are being broken in women’s sports – hate to say that ladies – but got a lot of new records that are being shattered.”

While referring to weightlifting, Trump said “every ounce is like a big deal for many years,” as he pretended to lift an invisible bar. “All of a sudden somebody comes along and beats it by a hundred pounds,” he said.

Trump continued: “Young girls and women are incensed that they are now being forced to compete against those who are biological males. It’s not good for women. it’s not good for women’s sports which worked for so long and so hard to get to where they are.”

“What coach, as an example, wants to recruit a young woman to compete if her record can easily be broken by somebody who was born a man?” Trump asked.

He added, “If this does not change, women’s sports as we know it will die.”

Trump spoke during the final day of the conservative conference in Orlando, Florida, in his first public speech since leaving the White House last month.

Many US states are currently considering legislation that would restrict the participation of transgender youth in sports.

However, such bills could contradict an executive order signed by President Joe Biden on his first day in office that reversed Trump’s definition of gender as the one a person was assigned at birth.

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