Gov. John Bel Edwards raised concerns that a recent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation would have a negative impact on the already high suicide rate for transgender Louisianians. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)
Gov. John Bel Edwards raised concerns that a recent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation would have a negative impact on the already high suicide rate for transgender Louisianians.
“Members of this community believe they’re being attacked for who they are,” Edwards said. “Members of the the trans community are much more likely than other young people to have suicidal ideation or attempts or to actually be successful. These kinds of bills do not tend to help with that.”
“And in fact, they aggravate that situation and then cause it to be worse,” Edwards added.
Studies indicate approximately 80% of transgender youth have considered suicide, and 40% report at least one suicide attempt.
Edwards raised these concerns at a press conference Thursday. He was referencing several anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have recently advanced in the legislature, several of which would have a particular impact on young transgender people.
One such bill, House Bill 648, sponsored by Rep. Gabe Firment R-Pollock, which would ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender minors, advanced from the House earlier this week. IIrreversible procedures such as top surgery, which adds or removes breast tissue, and reversible treatments like puberty blockers would fall under the ban.
Research indicates gender-affirming healthcare leads to improved mental health outcomes.
Another bill, House Bill 81, by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, would forbid teachers and other school employees from using transgender minors’ chosen names and pronouns. The bill was also advanced from the House earlier this week.
Edwards has previously declined to comment on anti-LGBTQ legislation, citing his longstanding policy not to announce whether he is going to veto legislation before it arrives at his desk.
While the governor did not say what he would do with the bills should they be presented to him, he did offer words of encouragement to the LGBTQ+ community, which has at times considered him a luke-warm ally due to his refusal to veto a bill that requires K-12 and college athletes to compete in accordance with their sex assigned at birth.
“I would encourage these … young people and members of the LGBT community at large to please resist the temptation to believe that they are unloved or unwanted,” Edwards said.
The governor’s decision to reverse course and offer comment may be explained by renewed interest Republicans have taken in the legislation during an election year. Last year, the gender affirming care ban did not even receive a committee hearing.
Another piece of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, House Bill 466, by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, has also advanced from the House this year despite being killed in committee last year.
Horton’s bill, referred to by critics as a “don’t say gay” bill, would prohibit teachers from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation, effectively banning Gay-Straight Alliance clubs at schools and making it difficult for teachers in same-sex relationships from discussing their lives with students.
Edwards said it is unfortunate the legislature is spending so much time on legislation that doesn’t contribute to education or the economy.
“These bills are unnecessary,” Edwards said. “I really wish we would get along and love everybody as our brothers and sisters and not pick certain groups out and say we have to pass this legislation that is obviously an affront to them.”
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