Onslaught of Anti-Trans Bills Continues in Arizona 2022 Legislative Session

By Julianne Baggett.

A day before the International Transgender Day of Visibility, Governor Douglas A. Ducey signed two anti-trans bills into law: Senate Bill 1138 (“SB1138”) and Senate Bill 1165 (“SB1165”).

Previously, SB1138 had died in committee after the Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard three hours of public testimony. Less than one week later, the committee revived the bill with a “strike everything” amendment that narrowed its language and then voted to pass the bill without permitting public testimony on the newly-amended version.

In effect, SB1138 forbids transgender individuals under the age of eighteen from receiving certain gender-affirming surgeries. While Senator Pace insisted that the revised bill comports with the World Professional Association of Transgender Health’s (“WPATH”) standards of care that were established in 2012, the bill limits more procedures than what those standards set forth. Notably, the updated version of the WPATH standards is expected to be released at some point this spring. WPATH distributed a portion of these new standards for public comment in December 2021, which provided relevant updates regarding gender-affirming care for adolescents. According to the excerpt, the suggested age of consent for several of the procedures targeted by SB1138 is younger than eighteen. Thus, once WPATH’s updated standards are published, SB1138 will be contrary to the standards it purports to conform to.

SB1165 bars transgender girls and women from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. Instead, the it requires participants to join sports teams based on the “biological sex” of the students. When enforcement was discussed, Senator Barto suggested utilizing routine physical exams or inspections of birth certificates. Nevertheless, it is unclear how the bill could be enforced without the disclosure of intimate information which would, at times, forcibly out trans students.

Unfortunately, SB1138 and SB1165 are two of many proposed bills in Arizona (and throughout the country) this legislative session that negatively impact transgender individuals. Despite the majority of anti-trans bills failing to pass into law, the trans community has still suffered as a result of the constant barrage of bills targeting their existence.

Other Anti-Trans Bills Proposed in Arizona

At least a dozen bills proposed in Arizona this session would negatively affect transgender individuals if enacted. These bills include ones permitting teachers to misgender students, limiting transgender individuals’ access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, and creating criminal penalties for providing gender-affirming care.

House Bill 2294 would have required Arizona agencies to only use male or female designations on any documentation issued that refers to the gender or sex of an individual. Thus, this bill would have prevented state agencies from utilizing nonbinary gender markers on identification documents, such as driver’s licenses. This bill failed to pass its third House reading in a narrow 30-29 vote.

Senate Bill 1130 would have amended the section of Arizona’s criminal code pertaining to child abuse—a felony offense—to include any healthcare professionals who provide certain gender-affirming care to individuals under the age of eighteen. This bill was held in committee on January 27, 2022.

These examples are merely a small snippet of the proposed anti-trans bills this session, and they are an even smaller sample of similar bills proposed throughout the entire country this year. Although the outcome and effect of each bill varies (and although several bills have failed), it is important to recognize the harmful impact these proposed bills have on the trans community.

Harm Caused to the Trans Community

Arizona is one of many states that has seen an uptick in anti-trans bills filed over the past several years. The prevalence of these bills is disheartening and makes little sense when one considers the outcome of recent polls indicating strong support across various demographics for equal treatment of transgender individuals.

The proposed bills and ensuing debates have had a clear detrimental impact on those whom the bills would directly affect: transgender and nonbinary youth. According to a recent poll of 820 LGBTQ+ youth, 85% of the polled trans and nonbinary individuals reported that their mental health suffered due to the current state law debates. Individuals reported feeling scared, hopeless, and nervous at the thought of what would happen if such bills were enacted.

Trans individuals, their family members, and advocates have traveled to their state legislatures—and, at times, legislatures in other states—to speak out against the swarm of proposed anti-trans bills. Several of the individuals testifying at the hearing on SB1138 shared how such bills would negatively affect them if enacted. One young individual shared that he felt people are against who he is as a person. He went on to express that, as a fourteen-year-old, he is not able to do much aside from testifying or trying to educate others. Other individuals shared that they are scared they will no longer be safe in their home state, or that the bill would prevent them from being who they are.

One thing is clear: transgender youth face enough discrimination, violence, and other social stigmatization without the added stress of anti-trans bills hanging over their heads.

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