The Montana Legislature this week took up a raft of legislation aimed at eliminating trans people. One bill would write transgender people out of the state’s legal code, requiring that birth certificates, drivers licenses, and even death certificates list only a person’s sex at birth. Another would allow public school teachers to deliberately misgender trans students, with no provision for parents to instruct schools to use the child’s preferred pronouns. A third would amend an anti-porn bill to ban “acts of transgenderism” from any website that doesn’t require age verification, treating most LGBTQ sites as if they were porn.
Finally, both houses passed a final version of Senate Bill 99, which not only bans gender-affirming medical care for minors but also will require trans minors to immediately stop taking their medication, forcing them to begin detransitioning. (At least, unlike in Missouri, adults will be able to continue their medical care. For now.) That’s to “protect” them by forcing them to experience puberty as the sex with which they don’t identify. The bill provides for both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution against any healthcare provider who “harms” a trans youth by giving them the care recommended by virtually all medical and mental health professional organizations in the US.
SB 99 passed both houses once, but Gov. Greg Gianforte sent it back with amendments that, among other things, got rid of the word “procedures” to ensure that all medical treatment was banned — get it, because your medication isn’t a “procedure” — and more extensively defined “sex” more comprehensively around reproductive organs, declaring, “In human beings, there are exactly two sexes, male and female, with two corresponding types of gametes,” do not pass GO, do not collect a tiara if you have a dong. The amended bill passed Wednesday and went to Gianforte for his signature, once more over the protests of pediatricians and other medical professionals who warned again that trans kids will be harmed.
That, after all, was the point.
Blood On Their Hands
It was, finally, too much for first-term state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, Montana’s first trans legislator, who gave a blistering condemnation of the bill, as well as the cover letter Gianforte sent the House regarding his requested amendments. Please watch this speech, since it may well be the last time the Republican supermajority allowed Rep. Zephyr to speak in defense of the trans community.
Zephyr rejected Gianforte’s assertion that SB 99 would “protect” Montana children, saying that forcing puberty on a trans young person amounts to torture. She also rejected his notion that the bill still allows “psychotherapy to treat young Montanans struggling with their gender identity.” But without the transitional medical care that’s actually the proper treatment for gender dysphoria — puberty blockers, with the option of hormone treatment later (most people delay surgery until after they’re 18 anyway) — Zephyr correctly pointed out that the only “psychotherapy” that remains would be “conversion therapy, which is torture.”
But the real fire of Zephyr’s comments was reserved for the state Legislature and for the fraud of SB 99 itself, with its attempt to legislate all humans into a gender binary, an idea as ridiculous, Zephyr said, as legislating that the Earth is flat. As for the claim that “life altering” medical treatment must be delayed until adulthood, Zephyr said,
“If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture. This body should be ashamed.”
House Majority Leader Sue Vinton (R) objected to that, saying that her caucus “will not be shamed.”
Nevertheless, Zephyr persisted.
“Then the only thing I will say is that if you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”
Vinton and nearly all the other Republicans stood to object, and Vinton said that Zephyr’s comments were “inappropriate, disrespectful and uncalled for.”
Freedom’s Just Another Word For Shut Up And Sit Down
Within hours, the “Montana Freedom Caucus” tweeted out a call for Zephyr to be censured, claiming that the Legislature is a place for “civil discourse” while deliberately misgendering Zephyr in both the tweet and the attached press release, and lying that her comments had been “threatening.” We suppose that actually recognizing the blood on their hands might scare them, though.
Zephyr also tweeted a letter from an ER doctor who recently wrote to her that a colleague had treated a suicidal transgender teen who said that they mostly wanted to die because the were constantly being told that their very existence was wrong. The teen
“referenced the current legislative session and told my partner, ‘My state doesn’t want me.’ Please consider that statement and let it sink in. This young teen is so distressed by the laws that you all have been discussing and passing, that they were driven to want to kill themselves.”
Zephyr prefaced the letter by saying, “When I said there is blood on their hands, I meant it.”
This Isn’t Legislating, This Is Genocide
Then yesterday, the House finished debate on SB 458, which enshrines in state law that binary definition of “sex” as either male or female, and nothing else. The law — which is probably unconstitutional, as if that matters anymore — effectively writes trans people out of 41 sections of Montana law. For instance, it specifies that the state’s law against discrimination now means that “a person may not be subjected to discrimination because of sex, as defined in 1-1-201, race, creed, religion, age, physical or mental disability, color, or national origin.” That section, of course, is the bit saying “there are exactly two sexes, male and female,” etc.
Another clause notes that the state’s “fair campaign practices” code means that candidates will pledge to “not make any appeal to prejudice based on race, sex, as defined in 1-1-201, creed, or national origin” — in other words, campaigning on prejudice against trans folks is apparently 100 percent ethical in Montana.
Housing and job discrimination against trans people? Completely legal now. And birth and death certificates and drivers licenses can only list the person’s sex at birth. You’ll be permanently misgendered even in the grave.
You get the idea.
We’re Republicans, We Can Do What We Want
As Zephyr stood to voice her objections to the bill, House Speaker Matt Regier (R), refused to recognize her, which prompted a formal objection from Minority Leader Kim Abbott (D) and other Democrats. Regier said that as speaker, he decides who will speak and who won’t, and that’s that: “It is up to me to maintain decorum here on the House floor, to protect the dignity and integrity, and any representative I don’t feel can do that will not be recognized.”
The Democratic objection led to a meeting of the Rules Committee, where after some debate, the Republicans voted that Regier does indeed have the power to decide who can participate in debate, or not. But before that, the Rs tossed in an incidental threat to also silence Native American Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy (D), for warning that the Legislature was headed down a slippery slope to fascism, how dare she.
Regier later told reporters that unless Zephyr properly apologizes for her rude behavior, she won’t be allowed to speak again for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session, which is likely to run for another two weeks or so.
Zephyr made clear that she has nothing to apologize for, because these bills are going to kill trans kids, just as hatred has already killed trans people:
“I have lost friends to suicide this year,” she said. “I field the calls from multiple families who dealt with suicide attempts, with trans youth who have fled the state, people who have been attacked on the side of the road, because of legislation like this. I spoke with clarity and precision about the harm these bills do. And they say they want an apology, but what they really want is silence as they take away the rights of trans and queer Montanans.”
The Montana Democratic Party and the Montana American Indian Caucus both issued statements condemning the silencing of Zephyr, as well as the Montana Freedom Caucus for misgendering her. The latter statement also praised Zephyr for “speaking up for the Montana trans, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit community,” and condemned the legislature’s passage of laws that “spread disinformation and fear, prevent them from receiving life-saving health care, ban their self-expression, and erase them from all public life.”
Fascist Creeps And Creeping Fascism
Montana’s silencing of Zooey Zephyr is proof that Republicans haven’t learned anything at all from the backlash to Tennessee Republicans’ attempt to silence two Black Democrats who spoke up (without permission, egad!) against gun violence.
Or maybe the Montana GOP did learn something. The House speaker silenced her even though there was no censure resolution at all. Just to add to the farce, the Montana “Freedom” Caucus celebrated Zephyr’s silencing with another press release that flat out lied, claiming that the Legislature had “officially” voted to censure Zephyr. Of course, no such vote happened, just the Rules Committee vote affirming that Regier can silence anyone he wants.
Not like anyone will be allowed to call that a lie in the House. Wouldn’t be civil.
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