Last Thursday, before the 2022 legislative session ended, Alabama lawmakers passed House Bill 322 and Senate Bill 184, targeting the LGBTQ+ community with Gov. Kay Ivey’s signature. In tandem, these bills will outlaw gender-affirming healthcare for minors by making it a felony offense, mandate transgender kids use bathrooms that are inconsistent with their gender identity, and ban talk of LGBTQ+ identities in K-5 schools. Reading these bills, many of us were brought to tears thinking of the draconian and archaic ways that queer people will be targeted.
The ACLU’s deputy director for trans justice, Chase Strangio, called SB 184 “the most deadly, sweeping and hostile law targeting transgender people in the country.” These bills will have marked impacts on the livelihoods of LGBTQ+ children across this state. Even the mere discussions of bills such as these have caused permanent damage to LGBTQ+ youth. A 2021 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that nearly 76% of LGBTQ+ high school students reported feeling persistently “sad” or “hopeless,” an increase of 14% since 2019. As LGBTQ+ students face the onslaught of hate and violence against them resulting from Gov. Ivey’s actions, deadly consequences for students across this country will be felt in the face of isolation and harassment.
Not only do these bills quarantine and endanger LGBTQ+ lives, they also are based on abhorrently inaccurate information about what is happening in the state of Alabama. After signing HB 322, Ivey argued that it will “ensure our elementary schools remain free from any kind of sex talk.” Has vey become so senile that she believes these kinds of discussions are actually happening? Many of our board have gone through their entire education in the state of Alabama, and we can attest that no one educated us on our identities except ourselves. We believe this needs to change and Alabamians deserve proper sex education; however, these bills do not protect children and have nothing to offer other than attacks and misinformation.
In the future, these bills will cost Alabamians more than just money. Devoted and hardworking people will leave this state and never return. Transgender kids who wish to have a normal, healthy life will be forced to flee. Many more will be left with no choice but to stay and endure the state-sponsored harassment and bullying these laws will bring.
How much further will Alabama Republicans go to harm transgender kids? If they follow the recent model of their Republican colleagues in Texas, parents of transgender and gender non-conforming youth could find themselves in prison, fired from their jobs or stripped of their children. Ivey and the Republican-led legislature pride themselves on being pro-family and pro-parental rights, but they are attacking the basic foundations of a parent’s ability to provide for their children and of children to live safe and happy lives.
For the LGBTQ+ children and parents of those children in Alabama: you are loved. We see you. We feel the pain that you feel, and we are doing everything we can at The University of Alabama to ensure that we protect our community across this state.
For LGBTQ+ students both here at the University and those considering their college decision, we offer you a safe place to grow in your identity, connect with others in the community and act to organize students for our safety and prosperity. This University nor the state of Alabama would be the same without our community, and this is our home. No matter what Gov. Ivey and the Republican Party do, the LGBTQ+ community will always be here working to create a more inclusive and prosperous Alabama for all.
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