We Have to Stop South Dakota’s ‘Don’t Say Gender Dysphoria’ in Schools Bill

South Dakota’s House has just passed a bill that would ban teachers from discussing†gender dysphoria in schools, essentially preventing school staff from giving help to children who may be struggling with their gender identities.

The legislation (HB1108)†states that “no instruction in gender dysphoria may be provided to any student in kindergarten through grade seven in any public school in the state”.

The legislation advanced from the House on a†39-30 vote this past week and now heads to the Republican-dominated Senate. This is one of four anti-trans bills currently making their way through the South Dakota legislature, but it is the only bill, perhaps in the nation, that singles out gender dysphoria†for censorship.

The Bill’s Implications

And†censorship is the goal here: supporters of the bill do not want children knowing about trans identity and the emotional distress†a person can experience when their gender does not match†their outward appearance.

Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch told†NBC News that legislators must “protect our children that we’re sending to public schools from the influences of other children that are suffering with different disorders.” He reportedly adds, “I don’t want my grandchildren going to kindergarten and being confused if they’re a boy or a girl. Treat our children with respect, all of them, but let’s not subject them to notions of fancy.”

While it may appear narrow, this ban could reasonably be interpreted to essentially ban discussion of gender identity and ban certain books from†school libraries.†The†Human Rights Campaign fears it may extend so far as to create a soft ban on recognizing trans children’s true gender altogether because of the implicit threat†in this bill that teachers could lose their jobs for daring to recognize a trans child’s struggle.

“The intent of this legislation is clearly to discriminate against transgender and gender non-conforming South Dakotans,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said†in a press release. “If HB 1108 were to become law, it would send a strong message to LGBTQ youth that they are less than their peers. South Dakota was the first state to introduce anti-transgender legislation that would bar trans kids from accessing facilities consistent with their gender identity, and it seems intent on being on the forefront of discrimination yet again, at the risk being out of step with the rest of the country. We implore the Senate to vote against this harmful legislation.”

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is loosely defined as the psychological burden of feeling that one’s birth-assigned sex and physical presentation do not match the innate sense of gender a person might have. Not all trans people have gender dysphoria, which is one of the key reasons why a gender dysphoria diagnosis should not be one of the mechanisms by which we rate a person’s suitability for gender affirmation treatment.

For those who do have gender dysphoria,†it can give rise to extreme bouts of anxiety and†self-loathing. People†may go to lengths to hide†their non-congruent anatomical features. For example, trans men may begin chest binding at a young age.

Contrary to what right wing talking heads may say, children display a notably uniform sense of gender identity from a very young age, something that research has consistently supported. Gender dysphoria will often manifest as a firm insistence of their true gender, being uncomfortable in perceived “wrongly gendered” clothing and, critically, feeling extreme stress as puberty manifests biological and physical characteristics that are at odds with their innate sense of their gender.

The†’Don’t Say Gender Dysphoria’ in Schools Bill is Bad for Kids in South Dakota

It is these children, on the cusp of adulthood, who this legislation will harm the most. Banning teachers from talking about gender dysphoria essentially snatches a lifeline from those children”s hands†that could help them understand†what they’re††going through. They’ll lose†support they may need to effectively process their gender dysphoria.

It is not overstating things to say that this could be deadly,†as we have rafts of cases of children whose gender identity has not been affirmed going on to contemplate, attempt or even carry through with suicide. By the same token, there is strong evidence that affirming a trans child and helping them navigate their sense of gender is the best way in which to care for them.

The Republican-controlled Senate will likely pass the bill, at which point it will head to Republican Governor†Kristi Noem. The governor has previously supported anti-trans bathroom bills, but this latest legislation is almost certainly headed to a court challenge, because it answers a problem that no teacher is currently having, and it does it specifically to harm trans children.

Take Action!

Sign and share this petition now to call on Governor Kristi Noem to stand against this unneeded and deeply harmful anti-trans bill.

If†you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youíll find Care2ís vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo credit: Getty Images.

56 comments

Daniel N
Daniel N2 months ago

Thanks for posting

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Jacob S2 months ago

Done. Thanks.

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo R2 months ago

signed in February. ty

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Kevin B
Kevin B2 months ago

Thank you

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Mia P2 months ago

signed

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Mia B
Past Member 3 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Hannah A4 months ago

done

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Signed. Thank you.

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signed

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill4 months ago

thanks

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